As the observant among you may have noticed, I have now read all the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries and so 18 months after The Beekeepers Apprentice was a Book of the Week post, I am back with a Series post for Laurie R King’s Sherlock adaptation or continuation or whatever you want to call it.
The set up is thus: teenage orphan Mary Russell meets the aging Sherlock Holmes while wandering on the Sussex Downs. He sees something of himself in her and she becomes his apprentice (as the title of the first book suggests) and they start solving mysteries together. Mary does most of her growing up over the course of that first book – she’s at Oxford by book two and then the later books in the series are across a much shorter time span – it’s 1923 in book three and only 1925 by book 16 which is something that boggles my mind if I think about all that they get up to in between – for all that there is some jumping backwards and forwards in amongst it all. And I have significant reservations* about that massive age difference, given that Sherlock and Mary are married by book three, but mostly King deals with it well (and of course it’s a problem of her own making).
Mary and Sherlock make for a great duo – despite the reservations as mentioned above – his enjoyment in passing on his skills to her makes this feel different to the Sherlock and Watson dynamic and makes the series work (for me at least). And as the series goes on the books start to feature more of one (or the other) of the leads. Plus there are tie-ins and throw backs to the original Conan Doyle books but also references to other Golden Age crime novels – Peter Wimsey pops up at one point for example. But mostly I’ve enjoyed reading these because the adventures are good. They take you all over the world – from the countryside of England to the mountains of India, to the Holy Land and to San Francisco and a lot more besides. You do need to read them in order though to get the most out of them – if you haven’t read O Jerusalem, you’re missing a key element for Justice Hall. And if you haven’t read Justice Hall then you’re missing out in Garment of Shadows. And God of the Hive makes no sense at all if you haven’t read The Language of Bees.
It’s tough to chose a favourite from the series – but I think the ones that have stuck in my head the most are the aforementioned O Jerusalem and The Game. But the Pirate King is also fun (and could have gone into my Mysteries set on Cruise Ships post if more of it had been on the ship!), Locked Rooms gives you a look at 1920s San Francisco and Garment of Shadows has some 1920s Literati on the Riviera action.
These are really easy to get hold of – I’ve found them at the library (e book and real book) and in the bookshops (including The Works) and they’re often on offer on Kindle and Kobo, so if you pay attention you can pick them up when they come around on the offers.
*and that’s mostly why this isn’t a Series I Love post…